Li Xueyue was excited to depart for Hanjian, but she didn't think it would be so early. She wasn't prepared to leave too soon. "Wouldn't that mean I'd miss the coronation?"
Duke Li Shenyang grimly nodded. He wished it wouldn't be like this. If she was gone for the coronation, then she wouldn't have the opportunity to be crowned as an official member of the Royal family before the people.
"Yes, it would seem likely so," Duke Li Shenyang responded. "We wanted to delay your departure to Hanjian, but it's inevitable, given the peace treaty is about to be finalized and the tension between two countries would finally come to an end. Moreover, the journey to Hanjian will take longer than two weeks because it will be by carriage."
Li Xueyue bit her bottom lip. She didn't want to miss the most glorious day of the Li Family. The day Duke Li Shenyang would be crowned as the Emperor would mark the beginning of the Li Dynasty. Such a monumental day and she wouldn't be able to witness it.
"Are we receiving pressure from Hanjian's courts? I understand that it would take them nearly a month from now to see me, but isn't it unfair?" Li Xueyue asked.
"They're impatient, but we were the ones to have caused the most trouble," Duke Li Shenyang said. "I've already delayed your departure for a week. Originally, they wanted you to be sent off the day the political marriage was agreed upon."
"How have you been communicating with Hanjian?" Li Xueyue asked. "Aside from the messenger. Is a carrier dove used?"
"Yes, there is one for short messages," Duke Li Shenyang said. Everything was going according to plan. It was just as he had predicted.
Li Chenyang frowned at how close Xueyue was falling into the Duke's trap. He glanced away, irritated by his own father. With each passing day as the Duke aged, one would think he should've grown a little more senile. Unfortunately, it seemed as if the Duke was only becoming more sly.
"Let me write a message," Li Xueyue said. "A short one. I'll delay Yu Zhen. I feel like he's being this petty because I didn't respond to his letters which seemed to have been delivered to me late…"
Duke Li Shenyang held back a laugh at her suggestion. She was always so quick to pick up on things like this. He had, indeed, delayed giving her the letters. It wasn't because he didn't want her to see the letters. He withheld them to make Yu Zhen even more desperate to accept the proposal to see Xueyue.
Duke Li Shenyang had a suspicion that the cunning Hanjian Crown Prince would've requested for more than Xueyue if they could. But it seemed their Crown Prince had fallen right into the duke's trap. With Yu Zhen losing his patience, the only thing he would seek from Wuyi as compensation would be none other than his beloved.
"That is a wonderful idea, Xueyue," Duke Li Shenyang fondly responded. "You will have the entirety of today to write that short message. Once I get home, you can give it to me and I'll attach it to the dove tomorrow morning."
Li Xueyue quirked a brow. "Was that your plan all along, Father? You knew he'd listen to me, didn't you?"
Duke Li Shenyang warmly laughed at her words. She was pouting after finally realizing his intentions. He glanced up at the sky. "It's getting late. I should head to the Palace now."
"So I was right," Li Xueyue mumbled.
Duke Li Shenyang fondly smiled down at her. He patted her on the shoulders. She rarely showed this side of her. He would miss it indefinitely. "I merely offered you the kindling. You were the one who ignited it."
Li Chenyang snorted at his father's words. "What a dramatic way of saying your actions influenced her behavior."
Duke Li Shenyang's smile widened. "Interpret my words as you deem fit. Now, come along Chenyang. It will be a long day ahead of us."
"I thought I was supposed to stay at home a bit longer to... you know," he said and gestured to the reins in his hand. "Deliver this horse to my bratty sister who doesn't deserve it one bit."
"She has always been like this," Duke Li Shenyang said. "It won't be easy to change her."
"But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try too," Li Chenyang sniped. "If two years as a servant didn't humble her, what makes you think we can?"
"Your sister is a complicated woman, as most of them are," Duke Li Shenyang began. "We must understand things from her perspective. Just last night, she thought I never loved her."
"What?" Li Chenyang retorted. "That's such bullcrap—"
"Don't curse," Duke Li Shenyang interrupted. It was very unlike his son to behave like this.
"She brings out the worst in me," Li Chenyang muttered. He was too comfortable around his family. His composure always slipped away inside of this household.
"That's a good thing," Duke Li Shenyang pointed out. "It means she has left a big enough impact for you to react as such, though I don't appreciate the way this family is taking sides."
"We're not," Li Chenyang said, even though he didn't believe in his own words. "I just think her behavior is a way to make us pity her. Father, you've given her everything she has ever wanted in life. If that's not love, then I don't know what is."
"She claimed my love was materialistic," Duke Li Shenyang sniped. He glanced at the horse and realized, perhaps it was true. He wanted to give this horse to her, in hopes he'd cure her depression. In reality, he should've had a decent conversation with her.
"It is," Li Chenyang deadpanned. "But it's still love isn't it? And how does she respond? It's as if we starved her and deprived her of water."
It was time for Li Xueyue to intrude into the conversation. "Just because it has the word 'love' attached to the phrase, it doesn't mean it's actually love."
Both pairs of eyes landed directly upon her. She had a serious expression on her face.
"Tough love isn't love just because of the word attached to the phrase. Love is love. It comes in all forms, but when it hurts the person you hold adoration for, then it becomes something else," she said.
Duke Li Shenyang's lips dipped into a slight frown. He didn't expect these words of wisdom from her. Where had she learned this from?
Li Chenyang glanced away. He had never viewed it from her perspective, but he couldn't deny the truth in her words. What is love when it inflicts pain? Is that even love?
Li Chenyang always knew Xueyue was intelligent. He didn't think she had it in her to understand the meaning of love.
"If Minghua feels that way," Li Xueyue said. "Then there must be something failing in the relationship."
"You're too kind," Li Chenyang snapped. "You shouldn't be caring so much about a girl who does nothing but slander you."
Duke Li Shenyang frowned. If only Xueyue wasn't this compassionate. For her behavior, he adored her even more. It made the thought of departing from her even more difficult.
"I'd rather not stoop to her level and get dragged to the Eighteen Levels of Hell  together," Li Xueyue responded.
Duke Li Shenyang should've been offended at her words, but couldn't find it in himself to do so. Minghua had said much more nasty things about Xueyue. "I will consider your words then, Xueuye."
Li Xueyue slowly nodded. She knew the consequences of her words and actions. Minghua's life might get better from here if Duke Li Shenyang was true to his words. All of this didn't matter to Xueyue. In the end, she had still benefited from her own words.
Li Xueyue herself could see the approval in the Duke's facial features.
Duke Li Shenyang placed an affection hand on her shoulder. "You will do well in Hanjian, my dear girl."
The corner of Li Xueyue's lips curled upwards into a serene smile. It was the only thing she could do and say without sounding too humble or arrogant.
"We should get going now," Li Chenyang muttered. His gaze met Xueyue's. He was defeated by her words, but didn't realize the impact of it was much deeper than intended. That is until he gazed into the distance and noticed a figure running off.
Li Minghua had heard the conversation unfold.
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